by B.E. Lewis, RDPFS Intern:
The first Monday in September, this year September 4, 2023, marks the annual celebration of “the social and economic achievements of American workers.” Since 1894 Labor Day has been a national holiday in the United States. For most of us, it means picnics, parades, a day off from work or the end of summer. But the day actually celebrates a long history of U.S. workers and their immense contributions to America’s prosperity. Labor Day’s commemoration as a holiday can be traced back to the late nineteenth century, when labor activists advocated for a federal holiday to recognize the many contributions made by workers to the nation’s “strength, prosperity, and well-being.” Originally observed in individual states, the first Labor Day holiday was celebrated in 1882 in New York City. By 1894, 23 additional states adopted the holiday, and two years later, President Grover Cleveland signed a law designating the first Monday in September of each year a national holiday. Since then, Labor Day has been commemorated, often with parades and other celebrations marking its significance. For more background on the history of the holiday, read the article from the U.S. Department of Labor on the History of Labor Day.
Labor Day 2023 and Workers with Disabilities
Individuals with disabilities make up a significant portion of the nation’s workforce and recent trends show that “people with disabilities are increasingly at work across the country.” A report from NBC News earlier this year noted that “disabled workers are among the biggest beneficiaries” of the labor market recovery following the loss of jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment levels among workers with disabilities have decreased (at 7.3 percent in March, 2023, down from 8.8 percent a year before), although still higher than the national unemployment rate of 3.6 percent and the 3.7 percent rate among workers without disabilities. The increase in telework positions makes up some of the rise in employment among individuals with disabilities. Reports have shown that “disabled workers saw stronger job gains in telework positions than those without disabilities.” This trend may “simply reflect the boom in job openings but could also be the result of ‘systemic change’ that has made some jobs more accessible.” Accessibility in the workplace, whether the location is onsite or remote, can largely be achieved through reasonable accommodations, as required through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), to allow employees with disabilities to experience equal employment opportunities. Accommodations vary, depending on the individual’s needs and the job. For employees who are blind or visually impaired, Perkins School for the Blind has provided some examples of accommodations that are often requested. Examples include: providing: assistive technology, such as scanners, magnifiers, and screen reading software; an accessible website, including employee portals, message boards, and other sites; and written materials in the employee’s accessible format, whether in braille, large print, or audio.
For more information on employment trends, check out the NBC report explaining how the Disabled workforce expands thanks to the job boom — and long Covid as well as a research article in ScienceDirect addressing the question “How has COVID-19 impacted disability employment?” For the complete piece from Perkins School for the Blind, read their article on Workplace Accommodations.